Let’s respect the featherweight champion of the world, Alexander Volkanovski. He is coming off an extremely impressive title defense against Brian Ortega at UFC 266. After he showed heart, determination, and a will to win in this fight, it’s about time we start to respect him.
He is now on a 20-fight win streak, and is undefeated at the 145-pound weight class. He has beaten the likes of Brian Ortega, Chad Mendes, Jose Aldo, and Max Holloway (twice) on his UFC journey. This type of resume is not one to sniff at, and he has rightfully earned his spot as a top three-pound-for-pound ranked fighter in the sport.
The lack of respect was not his fault at all. During his rise to the top, he has beaten basically all of the fan favorites in the division he could. It’s one thing to beat a well-liked guy, but when you dispose of them one after another… you are looked at as the bad guy. This is the route that best suited Volkanovski up until now. He only wants the biggest and best fights he can have, and he’s lived up to the hype for all of them.
So you may ask, at what point does the ‘villain’ start to gain some respect? My answer is right now. After seeing him face some adversity and escape two of Ortega’s best submissions, I immediately became a huge fan. That level of heart you don’t see on display all the time. He could’ve tapped out in both of those scenarios and nobody looks at him any different.
But he didn’t. He stuck with it and somehow found a way out and ended up winning the round believe it or not. That was the most troubling position he has been in during his UFC career, and I was intrigued to see him escape and stay composed. He didn’t unravel on the biggest stage he’s ever been on, main eventing a sold-out show after hosting The Ultimate Fighter.
The Ultimate Fighter also allowed fans to see a different side of Volkanovski. I would like to think he is more of a fan favorite now than he ever has, even after beating Ortega who the fans have been behind for years. He showed that he was a true professional, all about business, had a fun personality, and could overcome anything. That is something I love to see in a champion and will be the reason I’m rooting for him going forward.
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